Senate OKs opening Mexico border to trucks

December 04, 2001|By SAM SCOTT, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — Worried about letting more Mexican trucks on U.S. roads?

A Kentucky college professor says you needn't be. The Senate passed legislation today that would open the southern border to Mexican trucks — provided they meet strict safety requirements. The House already has passed the bill.

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed

by Mexico, the United States and Canada, Mexican trucks should have been allowed to enter in 1995.

Safety concerns, however, have kept Mexican trucks confined to a commercial corridor along the border. In Calexico, the zone extends four miles beyond the city's limit. In bigger border cities it extends as far as 20 miles outside the cities.

But Mexican truckers in the United States are safer drivers than the Canadian haulers who have been crossing freely for years, according to Jim Jones, an assistant economics professor at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky.


"There's an argument statistically to suggest if you replace Canadian truckers with Mexican truckers you'd actually have a better record in the U.S.," he said.

Jones' findings, which have yet to be published, contradict highway safety advocates and union leaders who have long argued that opening the border to Mexican trucks would endanger Americans.

Jones suggested it is the Canadian truckers who could use some strict safety requirements.

His research indicates that Canadian truckers caused an average 1.09 fatalities per 100,000 trucks since the early 1980s.

Mexican truck drivers averaged .26 fatalities — less than one-quarter the number After taking into account driver age, truck age, weather and other factors in the crashes, Canadian truckers still had higher fatality rates, Jones said.

Jones' arguments won't convince everyone.

Rep. Bob Filner, one of only 11 legislators to vote against the bill in the House, said it's impossible to compare U.S. safety records of Canadian and Mexican haulers.

"That's a ridiculous comparison," said the San Diego Democrat who likely will represent Imperial County after redistricting in 2003. "At least legally, Mexican trucks are only allowed in a small part of the country."

Jones defends against that charge, saying he found that mileage traveled didn't make a difference. He said the border was basically open to Mexican trucks from 1980 through 1984 and the fatality rate held nearly constant.

James Giermanski, an international trucking expert at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, said Jones' paper underscores why he thinks the safety requirements Congress placed on Mexican trucks are unfair, placing requirements on Mexican companies that are not placed on Canadian ones.

"(The bill's) really discriminatory," he said. "It's really bad."

Jones said his study was purely academic and was not

funded by trucking interests.

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